Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Great Kebab Factory

This has been one of my favourite 'occasion' restaurants, since the day it opened in Delhi, many years ago. The then-new Radisson opened the restaurant sometime around '97, if I remember correctly, and claimed to have a nephew of the famous Tunde Mian of Lucknow fame as their head chef. The chef had come up with a repertoire of awesome kebabs including the then secretive Galauti Kebab. Rumour has it, an ancestor of Tunde Mian invented this for a nawab who was invited to a feast but had no teeth. The kebab therefore had to have its full meaty savour and flavour but be melt-in-the-mouth. So Tunde Mian's ancestor came up with a way of marinating the meat with raw papaya pulp, among other ingredients, that rendered it absolutely smooth, melting and fiber-free. Don't know if the story's true but the kebab is fabulous!

The first time I visited the restaurant, I wondered what a vegetarian would get and whether it would be worth the price ( Rs. 599 per veg setting), but I had no cause to worry. Their veg selection of kebabs including a veg Galauti made out of Yam is as delectable as their non-veg. How can I say this with good authority? Simply by virtue of the fact that I look forward to going to this restaurant as much as my very non-veggie husband.

The GKF, as we call it for short, later expanded into a franchised concept, with one outlet in Noida and one in Gurgaon with thankfully no let-up in the quality of food or service. The menu is a fixed one - you can order either the veg or non-veg meal, and within about fifteen minutes, with no sense of hurry, you will be stuffed to the gills with an array of fabulous kebabs and matching rotis. The rotis range from an ulta tava roti made with saffron to Bakarkhani and Sheermal, which here are made about the size of the palm, and less sweet than one would typically find at a Muslim wedding. The kebab selection varies, but the veg and non-veg Galautis are the signature dishes and always on the menu. They serve you one of each kebab on the menu at the outset and then you can keep calling for the ones which you preferred.

Last night, we went there with my cousin's family, visiting from the US, and my parents. Sadly, my cousin and her husband had had a rather filling lunch at IHC during the day, which they kept lamenting later on, as the GKF went to work. The meal started with a fruit salad served with a strawberry dressing. Then came the Galautis, served with the saffron rotis. Then a meltingly soft paneer kebab, served with a bun-like roti. The tandoori aloo was relished by my picky niece and nephew. I unfortunately had to eschew one of my favourite kebabs - the tandoori fruit. The spices add a brilliant touch to the sweet, tart pineapple and pear. Then came a shish-kebab which in my opinion did not live up to the high standards of the restaurant - too much ginger in the marinade, methinks. And finally a methi-corn kebab topped with a thin slice of orange as the perfect contrast. The roti and kebab combinations are well-chosen to create a harmonic counterpoint between the two.

As predicted, we were stuffed within about fifteen minutes but couldn't stop eating as the food was so good. The guys looked enviously at my dad who'd had the good sense to come dressed in a pajama kurta and thus able to comfortably let his waist expand, while they squirmed in their firangi trousers. Once the endless parade of kebabs was over, they brought us two kinds of dal, an aloo sabzi and biryani. The fragrance of the biryani was fabulous, and their dal makhani with its tinge of bitterness superb. I sated myself with only dal since I was really full and only had space for dessert :)! But my cousin and her husband did full justice to the entire meal.
The dessert course started with a delicious kulfi for everyone. Usually when you order Kulfi, it's either too frozen or too melty, but this one was at just the right temperature to be refreshingly cold but melt in the mouth without freezing one's teeth off. Dad went overboard on the moong dal ka halwa and had two bowls of it - and he's usually the most restrained of eaters, just at GKF that he goes overboard. Last time we had been here, he had had four bowls (!) of it, but then, that was in winter. My BIL started out trying to play it light by having only the rasmalai but we insisted he have a spoonful of the halwa, which then drove him on to finish off a full cup of it. I had a tiny bit of warm GJ but I prefer the way they make GJs in the South - very full of khoya, and less sweet. A relished the halwa as well, while mom had the chenna payesh - delicious again.

You can imagine what a good time we had, because not only did I forget to take photos of the food but we were supposed to take some family photographs as a memento but were so busy eating that we forgot all about it. The meal was capped off by meltingly soft meetha paans on the way out. The meal amounts to Rs. 1000 per head including taxes, but without drinks. A must-visit when anyone comes to Delhi. My cousin was relishing the memory of the food all over again the next day!